Emotions run high as Cats look to title game against Kansas

Win over U of L huge but not the goal

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 1, 2012 

NEW ORLEANS — With the win over Louisville on Saturday, Kentucky proved it was the best team in the state.

But the Cats have a bigger goal in mind.

"We're just ready to prove to the world that we're the best team in the country," sophomore guard Doron Lamb said after UK's 69-61 victory over the Cardinals in the Final Four.

The atmosphere at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was revved up.

The rivalry game had the feel of a national championship game.

The intensely hot spotlight of the Final Four was even brighter because of the team UK was playing.

So can Kentucky avoid the emotional hangover? Can the Cats forget Louisville and focus on their next game, their last game, the biggest game of the season?

Terrence Jones thinks so.

"We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing," the sophomore forward said. "We're not changing anything up. We're going to keep the same pre-game routine and try to play the best we can, to do the best we can."

Doing what they've been doing means not worrying about their next opponent.

"We just need to worry about ourselves and play our 'A' game and see what happens," Lamb said.

Anthony Davis, usually more reserved on the court, threw the ball in the air as the clock ticked down on the semifinal win.

He smiled widely and yelled to the UK fans: "This is my stage!"

The stage is huge now, and the stakes are higher than they've been before.

"We're just one game closer to our dream and our goals, so there's a lot of emotion there," Davis admitted.

That emotion, not necessarily the hangover that comes from beating your in-state rival in the Final Four, is the thing Kentucky said it would have to keep in check.

"It's going to be kind of hard," Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said of dealing with the emotions. "It's a championship game."

But Kansas, the next team Kentucky will play, will be dealing with similar emotions.

That next opponent will have much more to contend with than just emotions, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said before Kansas' win.

"Whoever wins this Kansas/Ohio State game is going to have to play a helluva game to beat them," Pitino said from the post-game podium, referring to Kentucky.

"Are they beatable? No question about it, because Vanderbilt did it. But you're going to have to play great offense, great defense and you've got to bring your A-plus game and they have to have a B game. That's what has to happen."

Kentucky's going to have to play a better game than it did in the semifinals, Coach John Calipari said afterward.

"We must play tougher than we played this game," he said. "If we don't, it's going to be a hard game for us to win because I think toughness is going to be the factor in the game."

With a one-day turnaround before the national championship, Kentucky isn't going to spend a ton of time watching film or breaking down its next opponent.

The Cats and their coach are focused on just one team.

"We're worried about us playing at our best," Calipari said. "We did not play at our best tonight. We played good, but that wasn't our best. Maybe Monday will be our best."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com, ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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